Narrative Basics Lesson 1: Characters

Characters and their experiences

Putting it all together

Let’s bring all this together in one place. 

Here is a rich description of an old Butler called Gibbon. You can see it uses lots of the ideas we've covered in this lesson.

Lord Saxby tried to give Gibbon his notice a dozen times or more. However, the servant was so old, just short of a hundred, that he had become very deaf and blind. As a result it was impossible to tell him to go. Even if you shouted right into his ear, the poor old soul wouldn’t hear a thing. Gibbon had worked for the Saxbys for generations. He had been in service for them for so long, he had become part of the family. Chester had grown up with Gibbon looking after him, and loved him dearly, like he was an eccentric old uncle. Secretly he was overjoyed that Gibbon stayed at the house, not least because he was sure the ancient butler had nowhere else to go.

Awful AuntieDavid WalliamsSource

The description includes physical details, relationships, behaviour, feelings and beliefs.

Here are some examples that use the same types of character details, though in a different order.

Booger had been on board the ship since the Captain’s first voyage. His towering torso and unbreakable scowl made for difficult smalltalk, but Captain Punce had come to grow quite fond of the man. The Captain couldn’t have asked for a better first mate - Booger did all of his daily duties thoroughly, motivated the rest of the crew and, in the Captain’s opinion, was a better cook than the cook herself. But it was his love for the ship that the Captain admired the most. When a vicious storm wracked the ship in the summer, it was Booger’s bravery and tenacity in the face of the squall that held the vessel together.

I remember the first time I saw Tilly slinking through our front yard. She was so dirty and scrawny that I thought she might be a rat, or maybe a possum. My heart nearly broke when I realised she was a stray cat. It took weeks of gentle coaxing and offerings of food to finally gain her trust enough to give her pats, and brush her tangled fur. Eventually, Tilly would run up to me whenever I went outside, purring loudly as she rubbed against my shins.

On the next page we're going to write a checkpoint piece using this snippet, so make sure you understand how the different character traits and experiences are being used, and get ready to write a big piece of your own!

Let's go!

Like what you see?

You’re not logged in!

If you want to save your writing, login and either assign this lesson to yourself or access it via your group.